Monday, April 13, 2015

Danger on Godzilla - Godzilla 2: War of the Monsters!

It’s a great time to be a Godzilla fan. Maybe the greatest time in my lifetime, behind the mid-late 90’s boom that really exposed me to the Godzilla fan community. For the longest time I thought I was literally the only one in America that was a G-fan! Then, perhaps in anticipation of the upcoming American Godzilla movie by Sony/Tri-Star, Godzilla blew up in this country! You could walk into any Toys R Us or Wal-Mart and find a wide variety of affordable, if ultimately flawed design wise, toys representing Godzilla and his friends and foes, produced by the now-defunct Trendmasters company. Better yet, you could find specialty shops like Showcase Collectibles right in my backyard of Badstreet, Atlanta GA, that dealt in imported Godzilla toys, posters, movies and more. Walking into that place for the first time was almost a religious experience for me.
 


Are you there, God? It's me. Johnny. You know, Johnny Danger? Master of the Dangerkick? WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO DISCOUNT?!

We all know how the previously mentioned American movie turned out, and despite having his next Japanese movie released in American theaters two years later to a tiny profit, Godzilla faded away from our shores once again. Specialty shops faded away as Yahoo Japan and eBay auctions became the primary source for imported goods (and therefore caused prices/value on said goods to plummet as they became more widely available) Toho would produce five more movies between 2001-2004, which were quietly released in the US on DVD, before retiring the Big Guy “for good” after his 50th Anniversary film “Godzilla: Final Wars” bombed both financially in Japan and with fans worldwide. Despite rumors that Toho would revive the nuclear leviathan in a few years, no indication was ever given that this would become reality. In fact, the “Big Pool” where Toho filmed the water scenes in their tokusatsu (special effects) films, was drained and paved over.

Then, news broke that a NEW American Godzilla film was being produced for release in 2012! It was a mix of “too good to be true” and “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…” from fans, many of whom were still reeling from 1998, where Devlin, Emmerich, and Matthew Broderick proved to be the real Three Headed Monster that Godzilla just couldn’t triumph over! 2012 came and went without a release, but in 2014, Legendary finally delivered “GODZILLA” to critical and financial success, and a sequel was announced almost immediately, currently set for release in 2018. US toy manufacturers such as NECA and the US division of Bandai are once again producing Godzilla toys for mainstream sale here in America. Godzilla has had several comic book series in recent years from publisher IDW.  The movie’s success also seemed to light a fire under Godzilla’s creators at Toho, as they have announced THEIR Godzilla shall return in 2016!

As we get closer to that film’s impending release, I aim to review/recap every movie in the series, but first, I thought I’d take on something less ambitious, but no less fascinating, to start off with. Much like his 60 year film career, Godzilla has starred in a wide array of video games of varying quality. Some of them were released only in his native Japan (some of these, thankfully so) but many made their way to the shores of the USA (Just as Godzilla did first for a brief rampage in New York in 1968’s “Destroy All Monsters”!). I’ll be telling you about them here, and ranking them from worst to first. Here are the following criteria that must be met for a game to be included on my list:

1 – I must have actually played either the physical release or a perfectly functioning ROM of the game.
2 – It has to be an officially licensed game, not a ripoff (I’m looking at you, King of the Monsters), or a fan game (Such as the incredibly ambitious Godzilla: Daikaiju Battle Royale, which I suggest seeking out and playing for the massive kaiju roster if nothing else)

I might have a couple things to say about such games, or various cameos Godzilla (or Godzilla inspired characters) have made in other games as random bits of trivia in some of the shorter articles. I’ll also contribute what I know about the games I have NOT been able to play. With that said, let’s hold our nose and dive in, because we start with the worst Godzilla game I have ever played!

Game: Godzilla 2: War of the Monsters
System: Nintendo Entertainment System
Release:  1991
Oh dear.

 The sequel to perhaps the best known of all old school Godzilla games “Godzilla: Monster of Monsters”, had a great title, and the box had fantastic cover art (lifted from the art style poster of 1984’s “Godzilla”/”Return of Godzilla”/”Godzilla: 1985”…yes many Godzilla movies have multiple titles, it’s part of the fun!) and, unfortunately, a game inside. 

Best part of the game.

Instead of the sidescrolling monster bash of the original (which we’ll touch on here later), Godzilla 2 was a turn based strategy game that did not directly follow the plot of the first game, though a sequel was implied in its ending. Most of the game is played on an ugly map screen where you move your units around until they are in range to attack the enemy units. That might be okay, if the actual combat was fun, but it isn’t, due to one fatal flaw….

YOU DON’T PLAY AS THE MONSTERS!

Surely if you’ve read this far you’ve seen a Godzilla movie, or are at least familiar with the concept, yes? Remember the legions of definitely-not-toy jets, tanks, choppers and more that were deployed against the rampaging monsters? Remember how well they did? This is that, in game form. For some impossibly boneheaded reason, you play as the human military in a Godzilla game, called WAR OF THE MONSTERS! Jets, tanks, AA guns, radar cars, and the occasional super weapon (Maser Tank, Super X), are all at your command, and sport 1-3 mostly useless attacks until the monsters hit them and they die, and you die a little more each time, too.

Ah yes, the actual combat. Perhaps you are thinking if you are quick enough and observe the monsters’ attack patterns you will be able to eventually deal enough damage and take them down? Well then, you are obviously not smart enough for THIS game, because that’s not how things work in Godzilla 2. Instead, combat is played out RPG style. You select from a list of attacks, such as “GUN” “BOMB” or “SPITEFUL SELF-URINATION” and whether your attack hits or misses, and the damage it does, is determined by the result of a slot machine.

A FUCKING. SLOT. MACHINE.

Hey kids! It's not just an awful game, it's your introduction into the wonderful world of gambling! Also, those symbols mean two things are going to happen when you fire that laser; Jack and Shit, and Jack just left town.

Go ahead and guess if the computer AI will be fair as you attempt to destroy it. Also, a jet and Godzilla seem to be the same size, and Godzilla can throw fireballs out of his armpit as an attack.

HaDON'Tken!

 Sure, why not? Logic has no place in Godzilla 2. The music is equal parts addictive and horrible. Monster roars are non-existent. The game has a handful of “scenarios” you can play in any order, which have varying difficulty ranging from “Well, that’s impossible” to “GODSHITDAMN THIS GAME HAS TO BURN NOW!!!!”. The enemies and available playable units change in each scenario. Oh, I forgot, you can play as two monsters, Mothra and her larva, if you find and protect her egg long enough, in certain levels, but you’ll want to put a gun in your mouth long before THAT happens. Enemy monsters include Baragon, the tunneling dinosaur with flame breath first introduced in “Frankenstein Conquers the World”, the giant pteranodon and Godzilla’s on again-off again ally Rodan, Hedorah the Smog Monster, King Ghidorah the three headed dragon from outer space, a UFO, Mothra if you fail to woo her to humanity’s side, and Godzilla himself. An interesting note is that before this game was announced, advertisements were spotted for an upcoming NES game titled “Rodan”. The popular theory is that a game based on Rodan alone wouldn’t sell well, so the Godzilla name was added to the title, but I don’t believe it has ever been confirmed that Godzilla 2 is what Rodan was planned to be.

There are some neat little bits and pieces to be found. Each monster must be dealt with in a certain way. Baragon tunnels underground when wounded and you have to search for him with a radar car, Godzilla can be lured by an atomic bomb (But if he should reach it, or the player detonates it out of spite, the game is over. I suggest spiteful detonation.) and so on. I hate this game.

Look, Godzilla 2, if I wanted social commentary from a crappy twenty-something year old game, I'd be playing Bad Dudes. 


PROS:
1 – You can turn it off and play another game.

CONS:
1 – You’re playing this one.
2 – Can’t play as the monsters
3 – Totally random combat.
4 - Despite being called "Godzilla 2" it does not follow up on the first NES Godzilla game in the slightest.

Fun Fact: After hearing this game was coming out in an issue of Nintendo Power, I never saw it on store shelves. I finally found it for rent at a grocery store in their game rental section. I begged and pleaded and cried for my Mom to get a rental membership so I could take it home, ON A SCHOOL NIGHT, which violated all sorts of protocol. Soon after, I begged, pleaded, and cried for the game to go away forever.


From the minute I pressed "Start", Big Guy.



Don’t worry, it’s all uphill from here.


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